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Sharks changes – yes, no, maybe?


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 10 Sep 2014 at 15:45
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sharks have made a fair few changes to their match 22 for this weekend’s outing against the Cheetahs. While many will argue that change is indeed needed after a poor outing against Griquas, there are always pro’s and cons to this sort of selection decision.

Let’s talk in general terms first; we know that rugby is a team game and one where combinations are important. It’s hard for your lineout to function at 100% efficiency if you’re changing your hooker/lock combinations every week, just as it’s unlikely you’ll have much synergy on attack unless your flyhalf and inside centre have the benefit of continuity – the ability to form a good understanding over the course of several games together.

If we look at the season so far, I think we have to acknowledge that for one reason or another (not always form related) too many of these key combinations have been disrupted from week to week and I’m sure that – reactions to losses aside – the coaches must be really wishing and praying for an opportunity to keep the same men together for a few weeks.

Let’s look at the specific changes made this week.

Dale Chadwick in for Thomas du Toit
There’s a bit of an embarrassment of riches at loosehead, with both players clearly among the best forwards so far this season. I believe that Thomas is carrying a niggle, hence the decision to bench him. What’s more, he can cover tighthead in an emergency, which is vital this week given an injury to Matt Stevens. If it weren’t for the injury, I’d have said Thomas deserved another start, Dale’s good form the week before notwithstanding.

Marco Wentzel in for Wiehan Hay
Yet another lock injury means yet another lock combination – the sixth in six matches. Marco is not a natural 4 (by his own admission) but will form a mobile partnership with Stephan Lewies that shouldn’t battle to dominate the lineout contest. Two changes in the tight five, though, mean the Sharks will not take much continuity into the scrum battle, which is a pity. Bringing Etienne Oosthuizen back into the mix at lock this week probably wouldn’t have been the right call, since we lack options at 7 and Etienne is actually improving there week by week.

Lionel Cronje for Fred Zeilinga
Perhaps the big talking point here is not the change in flyhalf, but rather the decision not to change the scrumhalf. Fred, it must be said, has been poor and has failed to dictate matters since the opening win over Griquas, but we need to compare and contrast this form to the way we know he can play, based on last year. I don’t personally have a lot of faith in Cronje and would honestly have preferred to see Fred given one more chance to impress, hopefully with a nippier and more accurate scrumhalf (Cameron Wright or perhaps Stefan Ungerer) on his inside. If there had been a singificantly, demonstrably better flyhalf waiting in the wings, I’d perhaps back the call to drop Fred. I don’t consider that to be the case presently.

Andre Esterhuizen for Heimar Williams
The messages re Esterhuizen continue to be mixed, with talk that he would not be considered as a centre by the senior coaches seemingly not on the mark. Williams played well enough to warrant another chance, but picked up an injury against Griquas, hence the need to change. Had it not been for that injury, I’d have wanted the Affies boy to start again, but Esterhuizen is an impressive youngster who now has a big chance to step up. Let’s hope he takes that chance.

S’bura Sithole shifted to 13 for Paul Jordaan
The best possible move. Sithole is wasted at wing and needs continuity in this position in order to push for a Bok place. Jordaan has looked out of sorts this Currie Cup campaign and while the coaches should definitely have a clear objective to get him back into form, they should not do that at the expense of Sithole’s development at 13. Sithole and Esterhuizen, as a combination, could be devastating on attack, provided the halfbacks can get them some ball with which to do so.

Tonderai Chavhange in at 11
Very good to see Tondie back and another hugely positive selection. He has shown a hunger this season that belies his age and experience and he, along with Sithole, are the key strike runners in the backline.

Tim Swiel for Jaco van Tonder
I don’t feel that Jaco deserved to be dropped, based on what we saw. He was defensively incredibly good and varied his play on attack, despite a few individual errors. That said, Swiel is a player with huge flair and with the Sharks lacking X-factor, I understand the temptation to give him a shot. Had it been me making the call, I would have left Jaco in the side and given Tim another run off the bench.

The bench
The noteworthy inclusions this week are Khaya Majola, who will hopefully earn a debut cap and SP Marais. I’m very supportive of the former’s inclusion (although injury has really left the coaches with no other options anyway). Majola looked good as an age-group player and should bring some verve later on, even if his size makes it unlikely he can be used anywhere other than openside. Marais, on the other hand, is a better player than the one we’ve seen this Currie Cup season. He was given a week off to clear his head and only time will tell whether that week has had the desired effect. We’ll all be backing him to deliver the sort of good performance of which we know he is capable.



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